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Dec. 8, 2007
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; December 8, 2007 - It was a tale of two halves on Saturday night in the Jordan Center, as the Nittany Lions clawed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to knock off Seton Hall 89-86 in overtime. Penn State improved to 4-4 with the victory and 5-1 all-time against Seton Hall. The Pirates fell for just the second time this season dropping to 7-2.
Seton Hall shot 61.3 percent from the floor and 8-of-13 from three in the first half to take a 52-42 lead into the halftime break, but Penn State used a 2-3 zone defense and a 1-2-1-1 press to limit the Pirates to just 23 points and 36 percent shooting in the second half. The stifling defense, coupled with hot shooting at key points down the stretch allowed the Lions to close a 12-point second half deficit and send the game into overtime.
A Talor Battle (Albany, N. Y.) three-pointer with 1:05 remaining tied the game at 75-75 to send the contest into overtime, and kick-started a scoring frenzy for the Lion rookie. Battle found his shooting stroke down the stretch as he went on to score 11 consecutive points for Penn State at the end of regulation and beginning of overtime to lift Penn State to an 83-77 lead and eventual victory. The Lion freshman finished with a career-best 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.
"He's a competitive kid," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "He took some big shots, he made some big plays tonight, and hopefully he has his confidence back.
"You know he is a good player. I keep telling him "you know, you are a good player, play like a good player." Hopefully that helped him tonight. This game is all about confidence."
Battle was one of four Lions in double figures, as Geary Claxton (West Haven, Conn.) paced Penn State with 21 point and 11 rebounds, his fourth double-double and sixth 20-point game of the season. Claxton led Penn State with 29 points at Seton Hall last year and has now laid 50 on the Pirates in two games. Jamelle Cornley (Columbus, Ohio) equaled his season-high with 17 points in his first start of the season. He played a season-high 33 minutes as he continues to recover from a bone bruise in his left knee. Danny Morrissey (Cleveland, Ohio) added 15 markers on 5-of-9 shooting from three.
On the first possession of the extra period, Battle drilled his second consecutive three ball from the right corner to give Penn State its first lead of the game. Jeremy Hazell made two free throws for the Pirates to set the score at 78-77 with 4:26 left in OT. Battle's late heroics continued, as he managed to net his second three-pointer of the extra frame. On Penn State's next possession, Battle dribbled hard to his right and used all of his 5-11 frame to make his lay-up attempt in traffic to give the Lions an 83-77 lead.
Seton Hall was not done as they knocked down a three and a pair of free throws to draw back within one point with 1:35 to play in OT. The next possession saw Mike Walker (Lewisberry, Pa.) drill a leaning 15-foot jumper from the left elbow. Walker was fouled on the play, but was unable to cash in on the old-fashioned three-point play.
After Hazell drilled a three-pointer, and a Battle free throw, the score read 88-85 with 30 seconds to play. Penn State missed free throws down the stretch and on back-to-back possessions Seton Hall had three-point attempts that could have tied the contest, but were unable to capitalize.
Jackson put the Lions up by more than one possession when he made one of his two free throw attempts with :03 reading on the clock. A Claxton foul sent Eugene Harvey to the free throw line. He made the first, which cut the Penn State lead to 89-86. He intentionally missed the second, but the scramble for the rebound sent the ball out of bounds off the Nittany Lions. That gave the Pirates one last chance with four tenths of a second on the clock. The inbounds pass from the corner went into Hazell on the right wing. The Seton Hall freshman got a look from 22 feet, but his shot came up just short off the front iron, sealing the 89-86 victory for Penn State.
"I don't think we showed much toughness in the first half," DeChellis said. "We really showed a lot of toughness in the second half and some resilency and that's the team I think we are. You know we were trying to play a little too cool in the first half for some reason. The second half, I thought we got our juices going and I thought we played well and made good basketball plays."
Hazell led the Pirates with 21 points. He was one of five Seton Hall players in double digits. Brian Laing, who was hampered by foul trouble late, finished with 18 points, while Harvey and Jamar Nutter added 13 points apiece. John Garcia scored 10 points and finished with 10 rebounds.
Penn State finished the game shooting a season best 47.8 percent from the field, while Seton Hall finished with 44 percent shooting. Penn State won the rebounding battle, 43-39.
During a fast-paced first half the Pirates used stellar shooting to secure a double-digit edge for the latter portion of the first half. Hazell led the Pirates with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Claxton led all scorers with 13 points, while Cornley and Morrissey chipped in with nine apiece in the first half.
Seton Hall started the game perfect from the field, making its first eight shots, including three shots from behind the arc. Despite the scorching early shooting Penn State trailed by just five points with 15:42 to play in the half after Claxton skied for a two-handed offensive rebound and dunk.
The hot early shooting from Seton Hall allowed the Pirates to set up a full-court trap after each make. After making its first eight shots from the floor, Seton Hall missed its next three attempts. Nonetheless, the Pirates managed to go on a 6-0 run to build a 25-15 lead with 11:02 to play in the half.
Penn State charged back with an 11-3 run covering nearly four minutes. Stanley Pringle (Virginia Beach, Va.) provided a spark off the bench by nailing a three-pointer, notching three assists and making one steal during the scoring spurt. The 11-3 run allowed the Lions to close within two points with the scoreboard reading 28-26 with 8:13 to play.
However, the Pirates remained blistering hot and managed to build as much as a 15-point lead over the Nittany Lions by shooting better than 65 percent from the field and nearly 70 percent from beyond the arc for the better part of the first half.
After exchanging a series of baskets to start the second half, Cornley knocked down a pair of lay-ups on back-to-back drives and Morrissey netted his fifth three-pointer of the game to draw Penn State to within six, 60-54 with 15:37 remaining in the game.
The Nittany Lions continued to chip into the Seton Hall lead by scoring on back-to-back buckets after Hazell made a pair of foul shots. The Nittany Lions forced Seton Hall into some rushed shots with a 1-2-1-1 full-court press. The press coupled with a 2-3 zone defense slowed down the Seton Hall offense, and allowed Penn State to close to within four with 13:14 to play, 62-58.
Before the Pirates snapped the Lion run, their leading scorer Laing went to the bench with four fouls. With Laing on the bench the Pirates were able to extend their lead to 67-60 with 8:22 to play.
Penn State went more than six minutes without a field goal until David Jackson (Farrell, Pa.) knocked down a jumper from the free throw line. After Hazell missed a three-point attempt at the other end of the floor, Battle went coast-to-coast carving through traffic on his way to a one-handed dunk to shave the lead down to 67-64 with 6:46 to play. The dunk marked the freshman's first basket of the game.
Laing returned with four fouls to knock down a three to give Seton Hall a 70-64 lead, but the Nittany Lions came charging back. Claxton knocked down a three from the top of the key to bring the Lions back within three. After a Seton Hall miss, Mike Walker (Lewisberry, Pa.) nailed a deep three-pointer from the corner to tie the ball game at 70 with 4:53 to play.
A Hazell three-pointer and a Laing alley-oop dunk gave Seton Hall a 75-70 lead with 1:55 to play, but the Nittany Lions were not done. Cornley grabbed an offensive rebound after a Claxton missed free throw and put it back in to bring the Lions back to within three. On the next possession, Battle eyed up a three-pointer from the right corner, which tied the game at 75 with 1:05 to play.
The Penn State defense held the Pirates on their offensive possession, which set the stage for one last Penn State possession with a chance for the win. After a timeout, Battle and Claxton each handled the ball before Cornley caught a pass under the basket. His lay-up attempt at the buzzer was blocked, sending the game into overtime with the score tied at 75.
Penn State hosts Princeton on Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. The game will tip at 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU.